BOSTON, MA – Former Massachusetts Governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis spoke with The National Herald about the upcoming elections in Greece, emphasizing that when “you force the country to adopt policies which cannot bring it out of this recession, after a while people say ‘enough.’”
He said that “I see SYRIZA and New Democracy are close. You have an electorate going through these austerity measures for five years now, it is terrible. What do you expect them to do? Will Mr. Tsipras win? I don’t know.”
Gov. Dukakis said time and again that “these policies are terrible, you can’t get a country out of recession with austerity, it doesn’t work. We tried that here in 1929 under Hoover; we had the worst depression in history.”
Dukakis also said about the domestic situation “thank God we had a Democratic government in 2008 and 2010 and we got a very serious stimulus both from Congress and from the Federal Reserve Bank. Otherwise, we would be looking like Southern Europe now – there is no question about it.
“Well, we recovered,” he continued, “but we didn’t recover with these kind of policies. I don’t understand what these European economic thinkers are thinking. Ok, Greece had some problem and had to shape itself up. Fine, require them to do that, but from an economic side the last thing in the world you need is to cut spending and raise taxes.”
Dukakis is not quite sure what a SYRIZA victory would mean for Greece and Europe. “Who knows? Will Tsipras stay in euro currency, will he not? I think it’s up in the air.”
When asked if he thinks that the existing parties in Greece today have finished their biological cycle and something new should blossom, he replied: “well, I am not sure if I am a believer of biological cycles. I think the fundamental problem here was the failed European policies, not just in the case of Greece but in South Europe generally, which by the way is not doing very well either. These kind of policies which were discredited years ago when they were tried at the beginning of the Great Depression.”
Dukakis also said “European Central Bank is talking about doing the kinds of things the Fed was doing years ago. The Federal Reserve here under Ben Bernanke literally printed billions of dollars. When you are buying bonds, basically you are printing money, and that is what we did. Belatedly, now Europe is starting doing the same thing which means they are beginning to understand that you have to take the stimulus policies, but in the mean time what are you doing by forcing the countries like Greece to raise its taxes, cut its spending. It never made any sense and still doesn’t make any sense.”
Dukakis believes that Greece “is now in a serious political situation,” and emphasized that you cannot impose these measures on the people year after year, without improvement, and expect them to be okay with it.
Regardless of who wins the election, what advice does Dukakis have for the new government? “Europe should stop this austerity stuff and adopt a policy that will stimulate the economies in Southern Europe, setting standards of integrity, clean up their acts, do the all the things that we all know Greece should be doing. From an economic standpoint, you have to invest in infrastructure, you have to put people to work; you have to provide inexpensive credit.”
If Tsipras wins, what about a Grexit? “That’s the big question,” Dukakis said, and he doesn’t believe that a Grexit would cripple Europe. He added: “the more important question is, can you adopt policies which make it possible for Greece to stay in the currency union and at the same time recover economically? The answer is yes by doing the same kind of thing that Obama, the Congress and the Federal Reserve did here. Remember the Federal Reserve played a major role in all of this. The European Central bank has only just begun to think about monetary stimulus policies and apparently Germany is agreeing to let them do it to some extent.
When you have a situation like this, you can’t adopt half measures – you have to be bold. Bernanke – who by the way is a Republican – was a student of the Great Depression. He was criticized by the republicans who were saying that it was cheap money, fueled worries of inflation, etc. None of that happened and what the Fed did was extremely important.”
Looking to the future, Dukakis said “the next two years in the United States are going to be terrific economic years. Look at the contrast between us and Europe.”
2016 PRESIDENTIAL RACE
Turning to American politics, namely, the 2016 presidential race, what does Dukakis think about his fellow Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s overtures that he is going to run again? “I thought he was through this. Who knows? And that is what makes it interesting.”
What about Hillary? “Yes, I think she is running. She should run, she has been in Senate, she did a terrific job. It will be an interesting couple of years.”